And How It Benefits You
By Shama Yunus-Joynt BA, CPHR, SHRM-SCP
When something bad happens to us, we naturally spend a lot of time processing all the emotions that come up and often spend time reliving the event. The aftereffects of an event can range from a momentary low all the way to a full blown trauma. Depending on the severity of the event, our lives may become disrupted as we struggle with letting go; we may also experience mental health challenges resulting in an inability to participate fully in our daily lives. If this disruption is prolonged, we may suffer additional consequences such as the loss of a relationship or a job. All the while, we may feel helpless to break the downward spiral that ensues after a hurtful event. How can we recover?
We expect that things become easier with the passage of time. We often console others with the promise that “time heals all wounds” or “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” or “there’s no way out but through”. While these statements are generally true, the important variable is how the person views the situation. Healing does not take place simply because time has passed; we know that how the person processes the event greatly influences what the healing will look like. For instance, an event that has been experienced as trauma will likely take some form of therapy or at least a great deal of internal processing on the part of the person for healing to happen. This internal processing is really about finding meaning; the meaning we make out of what happens to us largely determines if we will remain traumatized or if we start to heal. When the event is focused on something that someone did to us, how we heal depends on whether or not we are willing to forgive them.
Wait a minute – if we forgive someone, doesn’t that let them off the hook? That is probably the most common reaction to forgiving someone who has wronged or hurt us. The truth of the matter is that holding on to the past continues to add to the damage that was done when the event originally happened. Reliving the event and having intense emotions of anger, grief and pain negatively impacts our quality of life and well-being today. Painful memories and their associated emotions can also impact our physical health, as researchers are learning more and more about how our thoughts and mindset influences our risk of disease and our longevity. So by not letting go, by not forgiving, we are only hurting ourselves and shortening our own lives. None of what we experience impacts the person we are angry with, because they are long gone and living out their lives elsewhere.
Forgiveness therefore, should be practiced for ourselves, not for the other person. Being able to forgive releases us from a cycle of pain and suffering and brings compassion and maybe even gratitude into our lives. Truly forgiving someone requires a degree of compassion, as we consider what they might have been going through and how the event might have affected them. We could even find the strength to acknowledge the lessons we have learned and be grateful for them. The Dalai Lama said “Compassion…opens our heart. Fear, anger and hatred narrow your mind.” On this day of forgiveness, think about someone you need to forgive; think about them with compassion, trying to understand what might have been going on for them. Know that you have survived and you will continue to do so. Bring your thoughts back to you and all you have learned as a result of what happened. As you ponder these thoughts, there is where you can find gratefulness and hopefully some inner peace.
About the Author
Shama Yunus-Joynt is an experienced Human Resources professional specializing in culture and engagement. She has a background in coaching and mental health which she combines in a very unique way towards helping companies define and execute an extraordinary people strategy. Connect with Shama on LinkedIn to learn more about her.
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